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Court: Defendant Entitled To Autopsy Photos

p1 lawyer

A man sentenced to life in prison for the 1991 murder of his 11-month-old stepson should have access to autopsy photos as he challenges the conviction, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal sided with inmate Armand Perreault in his interpretation of a law that was passed to shield autopsy photos after the 2001 death of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt at Daytona International Speedway. Perrault in 2014 filed a motion seeking to force a medical examiner to turn over autopsy photos of his stepson, who died from traumatic injuries, the ruling said.

Perreault contends the injuries were suffered when he used CPR after the child stopped breathing. Perreault argued that the photos were needed to help a forensic pathologist review the case.

A Pinellas County circuit judge rejected Perreault's motion, saying the Earnhardt-inspired law required the inmate to show "good cause" to get a court order for the autopsy photos — and that Perreault had failed to meet that test. But the appeals court Wednesday rejected that decision, saying the law includes an exemption for autopsy photos in criminal proceedings.